What could be more idyllic than spending a summer week in Lunenburg, participating in hands-on learning about different forms of artistic expression?
This summer the Lunenburg School of the Arts is hosting an exciting lineup featuring well-known experts in their particular art form from July 2 to Aug. 27. Some of the programs are suitable for a beginner, while others demand some experience. There are courses in everything from painting in oils and acrylics to printmaking.
“This is our fourth season,” says Wilf Moore, who is a member of the Senate of Canada and the chair of the school’s board of directors. “So far, we’ve had a good registration for our sessions, with some of them already sold out. People realize these courses are the opportunity of a lifetime.”
One session that has a waiting list is a two-week long course taught Walter Ostrom, professor emeritus of ceramics at NSCAD University, alongside ceramic artist and educator, Ursula Hargens, co-founder and program head of Minnesota New Institute for Ceramic Education in Minneapolis.
Another popular course, Moore says, is the watercolour course led by Mahone Bay’s Tom Ward. Renowned artist Tom Forrestall and his son, William, will be teaching a course on the use of egg tempera.
“Emma FitzGerald, who launched her second book, SKETCH BY SKETCH Along Nova Scotia’s South Shore, at our School last November, is back to teach a sketching workshop in the third week of August,” he says. “Her first book about Halifax sold 3,000 copies in hardcover and another 7,000 in softcover. Recently she was asked to do a similar project for Vancouver.”
Youth Art Week will take place in the LSA’s street level studio beginning on Aug. 13. Jason Skinner and Marla Benton will lead the students in a wide variety of mediums including painting, collage, sculpture, ceramics and fabrics, with the week closing with a student-curated show.
There’s also a community service element to the programming. LSA’s program director, Douglas Bamford and ceramic instructor, Marla Benton, will lead the popular Bowl-O-Rama workshop which helps to supply the bowls for Ramp It Up, the school’s biennial fundraiser for Lunenburg’s Second Story Women’s Centre.
One feather in the LSA’s cap this summer is a bookbinding workshop featuring Joe Landry and his apprentice, Katherine Victoria Taylor.
“Joe Landry is a real gem,” Moore says. “He’s a very unassuming person but he’s sought out by people like the Royal Family and Tom Sellick for his skills. He knows so much about his craft so this is a wonderful opportunity.”
Lunenburg comes alive every summer with art galleries, concerts, fine dining, excellent sailing, great local shops and the opportunity to spend time learning from masters of their artform in the big yellow building at the corner of Montague and Prince Streets.
“Last year we discovered that 62 per cent of our participants came from outside of Lunenburg County,” Moore says.
The complete list of programs can be found at www.lunenburgarts.org/programs
Guidelines on Arts Programs Facing Cuts
With many institutions cutting or considering cutting humanities and arts programs and resources, the College Art Association has released guidelines for addressing substantive changes to art, art history or design programs. The guidelines pertain to the elimination or merger of undergraduate or graduate programs and related degrees or museums, and the removal of more than 10 percent of a fine art library’s or museum’s or collection’s holdings to another, generally inaccessible location. “Faced with the possibility of a proposed change to a visual arts unit, library or discontinuance of degrees, faculty and staff should engage in focused discussion with stakeholders and institutional leadership,” such as by expertly advocating for the resources in a nonadversarial manner, the guidelines say.
How can the arts serve social awareness and activism?
Ruhama is the NGO supporting women affected by prostitution and sex trafficking in Ireland. The organisation is also member of a network, CAP International, of 28 similar frontline organisations in 20 countries across the globe. Our work is at the coal face in responding to the damage caused by commercial sexual exploitation, a trade which includes the prostitution of minors – an estimated 10 million children worldwide . From Delhi to Montreal and Mexico City to Dublin we and our colleagues value the contribution the arts can offer for both awareness raising of this issue and as a mechanism for survivor healing and activism.
At this #MeToo moment in time in Ireland we are starting to truly interrogate some of the social issues that assist in creating optimal conditions for the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Issues of: early sexualisation, grooming, harassment, gender inequality, bodily autonomy, male entitlement, and the demand for the purchase of sex which drives the sex trade.
Consider a child, alone and helpless, subjected to the worst sexual violations imaginable. Most of us flinch from doing so because it is almost too hard to bear – a self-protective reflex as the mind recoils. We see in our mind’s eye the face of children in our own lives whom we love, and repel the image because the pain is too much to bear. Innocence should be protected not destroyed. It is a challenge to discuss things that are almost too abhorrent to conceive of. But if there is the possibility that they might be occurring right next door to us we have a social responsibility to do so.
Art can be a vehicle for us to transcend the boundaries of what we currently know or think, and act as a tool for us to interrogate our current beliefs, critically examine our world and our role and responsibilities as occupants within it. Works of fiction based on factual realities can be more comfortable vehicles than raw truth, to stimulate and challenge us to start conversations, investigate and take action for change.
In 2015 I was approached by author Lisa Harding, who asked me to read her novel Harvesting. The book tells the intertwining stories of two girls, Moldovan Nico and Irish Sammy, whose lives collide when they are both sex trafficked in Ireland. Lisa wanted to make sure she was handling the fictitious subject matter responsibly in her wish to give voice to the experiences of the real victims she had encountered, and to raise awareness of their plight.
When I sat down to read the manuscript I prepared to clinically assess the content for credible representation, based against the true stories Ruhama had encountered in Ireland, as well as our global awareness of the targeting and exploitation of vulnerable girls into prostitution. Ruhama has met girls similar to both Nico and Sammy. Girls like Sammy who were badly neglected, even if outwardly living in comfort and affluence, and groomed by boyfriends who prepped them for prostitution by breaking down their boundaries through exposure to pornography and sexual abuse. Girls like Nico whose own families commodified and sold them in the context of deprivation, poverty and the social devaluing of the girl child. We have also met and supported countless adult women whose first experience of prostitution was as a minor but who – in the blink of an eye – turned 18 and were somehow transformed from child victims into apparently “consenting adults”, as though the imprint of their exploitation was magically erased.
I assessed the trajectories of Nico and Sammy into well-concealed brothels and private “gentlemen’s parties” and I knew there was nothing fictional in this. At the same time, I also became completely engrossed in a beautiful story of unlikely friendship, solidarity and sacrifice which created a paradoxical reading experience – simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.
As social activists calling for the reduction of commercial sexual exploitation of both children and adults alike, we know that a primary step in any strategy for social change is to raise awareness. An important part of driving social change is getting people to think about their own ideals, emotions or opinions towards a particular issue. If the problem is not accepted as reality in society as a whole then there will be no movement for change. Art, through its many media, can act as a catalyst by drawing attention to the challenges society’s most vulnerable face in ways that will connect with the audience on an emotional level – the place where beliefs and attitudes are formed and changed. Using a deft touch, art can stimulate empathy. When an empathic connection with the most marginalised and their experience is created, there is the potential to generate positive change.
Art can also mobilise and empower the most vulnerable members of society themselves. Many survivors of sexual exploitation have found their own voice through creative expression. In Ruhama women have variously used poetry, photography, theatre and painting to express themselves, share their experiences and raise awareness.
A beautifully crafted, painful story can be elevated to the level of activism when it creates a springboard for important social conversations on the cause and consequence of sex trafficking. Harvesting can be one of these stories.
Sarah Benson is CEO of the Dublin-based NGO Ruhama. Find out more at ruhama.ie
After Grief and Defiance, Arts Help Process 2015 Paris Attacks
PARIS — Three years to the day after he lived through the worst terrorist attack in France’s modern history, Fred Dewilde and other survivors, neighbors and families of victims gathered on Tuesday for a subdued commemoration in the area of Paris hardest hit by the violence.
“We don’t really know each other, but we do understand each other and we’re here for one another,” said Mr. Dewilde, 51, who was at the Bataclan concert hall on Nov. 13, 2015, and attended the memorial held in a square nearby, where the crowd released balloons into the sky. “We’re all citizens of the 13th.”
That day, like Tuesday, dawned clear and warm for November, but after night fell, suicide bombers attacked France’s largest stadium, armed men shot randomly at busy sidewalk bars and cafes, and three gunmen attacked the crowded Bataclan with Kalashnikov rifles; all told, they killed 130 people and wounded nearly 500.
For France, especially for the Paris area, the initial sense of horror gave way to an outpouring of grief, then public defiance. But enough time has passed that many of those who lived through the attacks — like Mr. Dewilde, a medical illustrator turned graphic novelist — have moved on to processing the trauma through writing, film and the arts.
A spate of books, graphic novels, documentaries and exhibitions has emerged, as artists and their audiences try to capture and understand that terrible day.
“It is the media, the history books, the artistic works, the graphic novels that circulate widely that are going to help in the construction of a collective memory,” said Denis Peschanski, a historian at the National Center for Scientific Research in France. He is a co-leader of a project that uses the events of Nov. 13 to study how the memory of trauma changes over time.
“Memory is a puzzle,” Mr. Peschanski said. After a traumatic event, whether people were in immediate danger or just watching on television, they instinctively want to “find the pieces of a puzzle,” he said.
Creative works are now filling in some of those gaps.
They are personal, but also trace aspects of the attacks that many people will recognize — a body of art that also serves as shared testimony. In addition to the therapeutic value they have for victims and witnesses, the artistic endeavors, many of them open to interpretation, can help others understand what they and their society are going through.
The documentary film “November 13: Attack on Paris,” which was released on Netflix in June, immerses the viewer in the overwhelming event, showing the trauma to individuals, to a neighborhood and to Paris, but it also shows how ordinary people could and did survive it.
Catherine Bertrand, who returned to the Bataclan on Tuesday for a ceremony for survivors and families, is one of those who lived through the massacre and was moved to express her experience artistically. Her graphic novel “Chronicles of a Survivor” tells of her struggle with post-traumatic stress, depicting it as a crushing black ball, far larger than she is, that waits for her when she wakes up in the morning and weighs her down, day after day.
The ball brings nightmares, erases her memory of how to do her work and makes her cry easily. She feels distant from friends and family.
She learns about her condition and accepts that she needs help, and gradually, the immense ball shrinks. By the book’s end, she can hold it in her hand and says: “One day I will manage to throw that ball away and free myself.”
Even people who experienced traumas unrelated to the Paris attacks have told her they found solace in her work, she said.
“A father told me that he had lost his son and that after that he had cut himself off from those close to him because they did not understand,” said Ms. Bertrand, 38. “When he read my book it made him feel so good that he wrote to thank me. This is my most beautiful success.”
While ambitious ideas for tributes to the victims have been met with skepticism, even scorn — including a proposal by the American artist Jeff Koons to install a colorful sculpture representing a bouquet of tulips, and a government plan to dedicate a “museum-memorial” — more personal creations have flourished.
“With my book, I wanted to lay one little brick that I thought may help rebuild the wall destroyed by this tragedy,” said Aristide Barraud, 29, the author of “But Don’t Sink,” one of several memoirs written by survivors.
Mr. Barraud, a former professional rugby player, was shot three times as he shielded his sister with his body. He nearly died, suffering injuries so severe that he was forced to end his playing career.
For him, writing the book was a way to cope with the trauma, and to fill the void left by his sport.
Like Ms. Bertrand, Mr. Dewilde, 51, was moved to use illustration to express his struggles. One of his two graphic novels about the attack, “The Bite,” illustrated with finely drawn pen-and-ink sketches, is as much a parable of transcending fear and hatred as it is a memoir.
He depicts his emotions in “The Bite” as a black stain on his arm that spreads and morphs into a serpent, and portrays the Bataclan killers as skeletons. The stain feeds on each of the successive terrorist attacks that touched France over the following year, including the killing of a priest and the use of a truck to mow down scores of pedestrians in Nice on Bastille Day 2016.
At the book’s end, Mr. Dewilde’s character vanquishes the dark stain and malevolent serpent, finding that he has the strength to leave them behind.
While no one work can contain an event as vast as the Paris attacks, the documentary “November 13: Attack on Paris” by the award-winning filmmakers Jules and Gédéon Naudet manages to capture the day in its alternating normality, horror and heroism.
As Paris natives who had made a documentary about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, they were drawn to do the same for Paris.
Their Nov. 13 documentary relies on eyewitnesses — victims who survived, firefighters, police officers and government officials, including the president at the time, François Hollande. They obtained contemporary footage from a television crew traveling with some of the firefighters who responded, and from the offices of the emergency dispatchers.
The result is a remarkable three-part account that opens with the kind of postcard images of sunrise over Paris that are beloved by morning news shows, and moves through the day and night, intersplicing interviews with 42 people who were there.
The main point is not to forget either the good or the bad, or to become too emotionally distant from what happened, Gédéon Naudet said.
In New York, “firefighters, family, friends, the people who survived, they are extraordinary, their basic response was positive in the sense that they did not want to let what happened to them destroy them,” he said. “It was the same spirit in Paris.”
The Naudet brothers were in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, so their cameras captured the disaster as it unfolded.
“In 9/11 you were there because we were there,” said Jules Naudet. They did not witness the Paris attacks, but wanted the same immediacy, so they asked those they interviewed to speak in the first person and in the present tense.
“Here we wanted to recreate the same thing but without the images, with only being in the people’s heads,” Jules Naudet said.
The Naudet brothers decided to show not only the horror and destruction of terrorism, but also the resilience they discovered in those who are touched by terrorism.
“None of the survivors talk about hatred, revenge, and killing,” Gédéon Naudet said. “You have a choice: You go the dark way or you go the way with light.”
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